[E-voting] Computer scientists weigh in on e-voting

Tim timod at esatclear.ie
Thu Jul 20 22:27:38 IST 2006

Delurking for a moment... Well done to everybody who fighting the good
fight.  Found this on Ars Technica, a fairly well respected tech news site.


Computer scientists weigh in on e-voting

7/20/2006 1:20:36 PM, by Eric Bangeman

After the 2000 US presidential election and its scads of hanging chads,
election officials across the country began casting about for solutions. One
proposal included getting rid of those pesky paper ballots altogether and
going with electronic voting machines. It sounds good in theory, but as a
friend of mine once said, "do that and we'll find out who hackers want to be

A group of computer science professors are joining the forces critical of
electronic voting machines as they are currently deployed. Eugene H.
Spafford, a computer science professor at Purdue University and chairman of
the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery
has expressed his concerns over the security of electronic voting machines
used in the US. "As experts in computing, we have grave reservations about
the safeguards in place with many of the computerized voting technologies
being used," said Spafford in a letter to Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI),
chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

Ehlers' committee is currently considering legislation that would mandate a
paper trail for all voting machines used in the US. Currently, regulation is
left up to the individual states.

Spafford is not the only professor in his field handing out warnings.
Professor David Wagner of the University of California at Berkeley,
testified before the House yesterday, saying that "a single person with
insider access and some technical knowledge could switch votes, perhaps
undetected, and potentially swing an election."

We have covered electronic voting fairly extensively here at Ars Technica.
The concerns primarily boil down to one issue: security. One company in
particular‹Diebold‹has come under heavy fire for its policies and practices
surrounding the deployment and use of its e-voting machines. In 2004,
California Secretary of State Kevin Shelly decertified the Diebold
AcuVote-TSx, in no small part due to the fact that they didn't leave a
verifiable paper trail. Late last year, Leon County, Florida election
officials were able to successfully hack a different Diebold voting machine
using experts hired for the task.

Given the number of problems faced by electronic voting machines, state and
local governments who have decided to go the e-voting route would be
well-advised to make sure that their solutions are secure and that the
results can be verified. While no one wants a repeat of the 2000 debacle in
Florida, having hacked voting machines determining the outcome of future
elections is not a desirable alternative.

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